"Now we know why Notre Dame's football hero Manti Te'o played so poorly against Alabama in the national championship game Jan. 7," said Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass on Thursday. "His heart was broken, kind of, by a woman who didn't exist."
Kass sees a lesson for journalists in what he calls an amazing sports hoax spread witlessly by sports writers peddling the heart-wrenching tale of the heroic linebacker, his dying girlfriend, and the true love they shared.
"They probably forgot the ancient credo of the City News Bureau of Chicago," said Kass. "When your girlfriend dying of leukemia after suffering a car crash tells you she loves you — even if it might help you win the Heisman Trophy — you check it out."
Actually, Kass says, the City News Bureau credo goes like this: If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.
No doubt Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune
, Notre Dame's hometown newspaper, wishes he checked out the Manti Te'o tale before he got sucked into it.
Under the headline "What dreams may come, Te'o's, ND's destiny come full circle," Hansen gushes in a SouthBendTribune.com piece dated Oct. 12, 2012, how Teo and the fictional Lennay Kekua fell in love:
They met in 2009 after a football game in Palo Alto, Calif., writes Hansen.
"Their stares got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te'o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful eyes," Hansen burbled. (paper gushed) "They could have just as easily brushed past each other and into separate sunsets. Te'o had plenty to preoccupy himself that November weekend in Palo Alto, Calif., back in 2009."
"Lennay Kekua was a Stanford student and Cardinal football fan when the two exchanged glances, handshakes and phone numbers that fateful weekend three seasons ago," his piece continues.
Hansen also quotes Te'o's father, Brian: "They started out as just friends. Every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, and that happened to be the time Manti was home, so he would meet with her there. But within the last year, they became a couple."
And here's how the tragic end happened, again according to Hansen's South Bend Tribune piece:
About the time Kekua and Manti became a couple, she was injured in an auto accident. There were complications during her recovery. And it was also during her recovery that it was discovered Kekua had leukemia.
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"'That was just in June,'" Brian Te'o said. "'I remember Manti telling me later she was going to have a bone marrow transplant and, sure enough, that's exactly what happened. From all I knew, she was doing really, really well.'"
Kekua, who eventually graduated from Stanford, was, in fact, doing so well that she was released from the hospital on Sept. 10. And Brian Te'o was among those congratulating her via telephone.
Less than 48 hours later, at 4 a.m. Hawaii time, Kekua sent a text to Brian and Ottilia, expressing her condolences over the passing of Ottilia's mom, Annette Santiago, just hours before.
Brian awakened three hours later, saw the text, and sent one back. There was no response. A couple of hours later, Manti called his parents, his heart in pieces.
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